Four city candidates have switched their party affiliations


Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 4:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 4:42 p.m.

Gainesville City Commission elections are nonpartisan affairs, but party affiliations often provide insight into the candidates’ general policy philosophies and alliances.

Facts

Changes in party affiliation

Since 2000, four of the 11 candidates in the upcoming Gainesville City Commission elections have changed their party status, including becoming an independent (NPA):

At-large 1
James Ingle
July 31, 2008: Green to Democrat

Donna Lutz
July 22, 2011: Democrat to Republican

District 1
Armando Grundy
Feb. 8, 2007: Republican to NPA
Oct. 10, 2007: NPA to Republican
Oct. 16, 2007: Republican to Democrat
Nov. 2, 2007: Democrat to Republican
March 3, 2010: Republican to Democrat

Ray Washington
Feb. 18, 2004: NPA to Democrat

CURRENT AFFILIATIONS
At-large 1
Democrats: Dejeon Cain, James Ingle, Lauren Poe
Republicans: Donna Lutz, Darlene Pifalo, Richard Selwach, Nathan Skop
No party: Mark Venzke

District 1
Democrats: Armando Grundy, Yvonne Hinson-Rawls, Ray Washington

Source: Alachua County Supervisor of Elections

But what if those affiliations waver?

Armando Grundy, a candidate for the District 1 seat on the Jan. 31 ballot, has changed his party affiliation five times since first registering in Alachua County as a Republican in 2005, according to election records, while At-large 1 candidate Donna Lutz changed from Democrat to Republican two months before joining the race in September.

Grundy most recently changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in March 2010. He declined to comment when asked about the changes in affiliation — including three in 23 days in 2007, from independent to Republican to Democrat and back to Republican.

“I really don’t have any comment for it. It is a nonpartisan race,” he said. “I am a proud Democrat. That’s where we stand at this time.”

In addition to Grundy and Lutz, the other City Commision candidates who have switched parties since 2000 are James Ingle, who switched in 2008 from the environmentally focused Green Party to the Democratic Party, and Ray Washington, who switched in 2004 from no party affiliation to Democrat.

Lutz said she switched for “personal” reasons but stressed that the race remains nonpartisan.

“We’re never going to get away from political affiliation if we keep mentioning it,” she said. “The reason I am in this election is because it is nonpartisan, and I like that. It’s refreshing.”

She said she wanted people to find out information about candidates beyond “labels.”

“Once we put a profession or a party or an age, those labels bring to most people a certain idea,” Lutz said.

“A lot of people tend toward the middle, so they kind of meld. That’s the kind of person I am.”

Stafford Jones, chairman of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee, said he wouldn’t comment about Republicans running for office but said Grundy’s wavering indicated he couldn’t take a firm stance on issues.

“That’s a person who I’m not sure really knows where his value or ideological convictions are,” Jones said. “That’s a person who is still searching.”

Jon Reiskind, chairman of the Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee, said he wouldn’t comment about individual candidates on the January ballot but said there are myriad reasons to jump political ships.

“People switch for all sorts of reasons,” Reiskind said, noting that County Commissioners Paula DeLaney and Lee Pinkoson have gone from Republicans to Democrats, while the late Ronald Reagan switched from the Democratic Party to the GOP.

While he acknowledged there are pockets inside parties that have different causes, he said the country’s two major parties “differ significantly in philosophy, and people should belong to the party that reflects their own philosophy.”

While city politics are officially nonpartisan, Reiskind said a candidate’s party isn’t something that should be ignored.

“There’s no such thing as a nonpartisan race,” he said. “Party affiliation should tell you something about the candidate and where he or she stands on issues.”

Contact Chad Smith at 338-3104 or chad.smith@gvillesun.com.

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